Contemporary Sarasota Dance and Live Jazz Band Perform Duke Ellington


Sarasota Contemporary Dance Artistic Director Leymis Bolaños Wilmott has choreographed the dance pieces that will appear in her company’s latest production, “SCD + Duke Ellington in collaboration with Shane Chalke BE Jazz”. But even she cannot know for sure what the dancers will do or what the musicians will play.

It’s all part of the improvised nature of jazz and the freedom she tries to give her company members and guest performers for the program which will be on December 2-5.

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“The work is choreographed, but I give this freedom to the members of my company to perform,” she said. “It’s not a complacent experience. It is a shared experience. Jazz musicians have understood this. They are professional dancers. They are well seasoned and know the intention of the job.

Shane Chalke performs live with his jazz band during performances of the Sarasota Contemporary Dance production

Starting Thursday, company members will dance to the live accompaniment of Shane Chalke’s band. (BE refers to Banner Elk, NC, where he now lives full time after years of winter in Sarasota).

“Music is really an integral part of my choreographic process. I am inspired by working with other artists, ”said Bolaños Wilmott. “I’m a fan of Shane’s music and working with this band and having live music, there’s magic when they come together, the call and the answer.”

Chalke and Bolaños Wilmott said the musicians and dancers play each other and feed off the response and energy of the audience.

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“They not only have to see themselves as an individual, but they are part of the instrumentation of the work, like an orchestra,” Bolaños Wilmott said of his dancers. “They are as important as the trumpet or the saxophone. They cannot function without each other.

From fan to collaborator

Chalke said he was “a big fan of modern dance for 40 years, since I was a late teenager.” When he and his wife decided to spend time in Sarasota each winter, he discovered Fuzion Dance Artists, SCD’s original name. “We started to see their performances, and then about four or five years ago I knocked my musicians down and we did a jazz set with the dancers.”

Chalke was chairman of the board of the company when executives decided it was time to create a permanent home for SCD. He is now treasurer.

Leymis Bolaños Wilmott is co-founder and artistic director of Sarasota Contemporary Dance.

If dancers feel a sense of freedom in the way they move, responding to the flow and rhythm of the music, Chalke said the schedule can be a bit more restrictive for musicians than a typical jazz concert.

“We have to start each song the same and end each song the same, and it has to be the exact same length. But there is still a lot of freedom. In the ship we’ve created, we can do whatever we want, ”Chalke said. “One thing I learned the last time we worked together, depending on how the dancers dance and react to the energy, we adapt to the way they dance.”

There won’t be any drastic changes over the five performances, but the dancers will have room to take their time in the way they move an arm or arch their back. “If the music takes a little longer one night, it might sound a little different. “

This is the second of four programs for the company’s 16th season, which has been dubbed “GRIT”.

Two of the acts will feature tap dancing to suit the music and show off the skills of some of the company members, said Bolaños Wilmott.

The dancers will perform songs such as “Take the A Train”, “Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me” and “In a Sentimental Mood” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, among others. Chalke’s group will also perform some original tunes.

‘SCD + Duke Ellington’

Sarasota Contemporary Dance and the Shane Chalke BE jazz group. 7 p.m. December 2-4, 2 p.m. December 5. Tickets cost between $ 10 and $ 45. Cook Theater, FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Streaming available December 3-5 for $ 25.

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Henry R. Wright